Asia Minor, great peninsula, c.250,000 sq mi (647,500 sq km), extreme W Asia, generally coterminous with Asian Turkey, also called Anatolia. It is washed by the Black Sea in the north, the Mediterranean Sea in the south, and the Aegean Sea in the west. The Black and Aegean seas are linked by the Sea of Marmara and the two straits of the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. Near the southern coast of Asia Minor are the Taurus Mts.; the rest of the peninsula is occupied by the Anatolian plateau, which is crossed by numerous mountains interspersed with lakes. In ancient times most Eastern and Western civilizations intersected in Asia Minor, for it was connected with Mesopotamia by the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and with Greece by the Aegean and Mediterranean seas. The Hittites established the first major civilization in Asia Minor about 1800 B.C. Beginning in the 8th cent. B.C. Greek colonies were established on the coast lands, and the Greeks thus came into contact with Lydia, Phrygia, and Troy. The conquest (6th cent. B.C.) of Asia Minor by the Persians led to the Persian Wars. Alexander the Great incorporated the region into his empire, and after his death it was divided into small states ruled by various Diadochi (rulers). It was reunified (2d cent. B.C.) by the Romans. After A.D. 395 the country was re-Hellenized and became part of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine Empire. It was prosperous until the early part of the 6th cent. when it was successively invaded by the Persians (616–26), Arabs (668), Seljuk Turks (1061), and Mongols (1243). The Mongols obliterated almost all traces of Hellenic civilization. Asia Minor was then gradually (13th–15th cent.) conquered by the Ottoman Turks. It remained part of the Ottoman Empire until the establishment of the Republic of Turkey after World War I.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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